FORT WORTH -- As firefighters battled the fire raging inside his Kennedale home, authorities initially weren't sure whether John "Johnny" Hummel was a victim or a suspect.
Hummel had driven up and was unusually calm, sitting in his minivan and smoking cigarettes, for someone whose pregnant wife, young daughter and father-in-law might be dead inside the burning structure, witnesses said.
"He was sitting in a van with his legs and feet dangling outside," Kennedale Police Captain Darrell Hull testified Tuesday. "... He said he was a resident of the house. I asked him if he needed anything ... anything to help him with the situation taking place."
Later, Hull said, Hummel willingly followed him back to the police station, where he gave a statement regarding his whereabouts in the hours before the fire broke out Dec. 17, 2009.
In the statement, which was read for jurors Tuesday, Hummel said he left his house at 9 p.m. and went to Joshua to visit a friend, who wasn't home.
He said he drove around, stopped to get gas and then "began to visit Walmarts to price things for Christmas."
"I arrived home at 5 a.m. to find it burned down," Hummel wrote. "The police and fire were still there."
The short statement was admitted into evidence Tuesday during the second day of Hummel's capital murder trial in state District Judge Ruben Gonzalez's court.
Hummel is accused of killing his pregnant wife, Joy; 5-year-old daughter, Jodi; and father-in-law, Clyde "Eddie" Bedford, and setting the family home at 600 Little School Road on fire.
When asked to enter his plea on the first day of the trial, Hummel stood silent while his defense attorney, Larry Moore, asked the judge to enter a plea of not guilty.
If convicted of capital murder, Hummel, 35, a former Marine who worked as a security guard, will face the death penalty. Moore, who is defending Hummel with Fred Cummings and Pam Fernandez, has told the jury there was no rational explanation for why the slayings occurred and suggested that prosecutors would not be able to prove that the victims were killed during a single criminal transaction, as his indictment alleges.
Prosecutors Miles Brissette and Bob Gill maintain that Hummel killed his family so he could be single and pursue a romantic relationship with a woman he had met at a convenience store. They say Hummel beat his pregnant wife with a baseball bat before stabbing her with samurai swords and a medieval dagger.
Afterward, they said, he went to Bedford's room and beat him to death with a bat before he killed his sleeping daughter the same way.
Prosecutors say Hummel then put toilet paper rolls next to the victims and lit the paper on fire.
On Tuesday morning, fire officials testified that smoke and flames were so thick in the house that they could barely see.
"This structure was free burning and had been burning for a while," said Mansfield fire Capt. Mark Wilson, who responded to the scene with a three-man crew. "It was going pretty good. ...You couldn't see 12 to 16 inches in front of you from the dense smoke."
While knocking down the fire, Wilson said, he found a body in a bedroom, buried under fire debris.
Later, a Forest Hill fire crew found two more bodies in separate bedrooms.
Forest Hill fire Lt. Joshua Galbreath told jurors that there was so much debris that he counted the family's Christmas stockings hanging on the mantel to try to determine how many people lived there and whether firefighters would find any more victims.
Galbreath first testified that he counted four stockings, then corrected himself and said there were five.
There was also a small white stocking on the end, he said.
The jury saw a photo of the stockings, and though no one said it in the courtroom, the implication was clear for whom the tiny white stocking was intended: Joy Hummel's unborn baby.